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George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic bring the funk to a new generation

George Clinton
Photograph: William Thoren

As the leader of Parliament-Funkadelic, George Clinton has always been a tireless workhorse—his memoir lists nearly 60 albums in its “select discography”—and age has hardly slowed the 75-year-old. He’s still touring regularly, with a group that combines longtime P-Funk members and a new generation of musicians. Recently, Clinton has been working on new music with Flying Lotus as well as acting in the electronic producer's out-there film project, Kuso, which was reportedly gross enough to scare away several audience members at Sundance. Clinton revived his more free-form, rock-driven project Funkadelic with 2014's First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate, and plans to release a new Parliament album—full of classic horns and funk stomp—this spring. We caught up with Clinton before the mothership touches down in Times Square for his annual Fat Tuesday show. 

You’ve made music through a lot of politically challenging times. What’s it like now?
It looks just like 1968. I can’t get away from the television. I don’t necessarily like looking at the news, but it’s happening so fast every day, and you’ve seen this story before.  

Did you know there was going to be some kind of backlash after having the first black president?
No, no way. I saw it happening but I didn’t believe it. I got a thing, that we’re in socially engineered, anarchy-induced chaos. They play us against each other to the point that we’re all mad at each other and can’t explain or understand what we’re even mad about.

I’ve heard there’s a new Parliament album coming out this year.
It’s called Medicaid Fraud Dog. People have been giving their psychological diseases to their pets nowadays. So it’s about medicine and drugs, insurance companies and pharmaceuticals, manipulation of shit and the low-level people selling their meds at the old folks’ homes. How the insurance companies have overtaken the street pushers and made it legal. 

You’ve used dogs a lot from “Atomic Dog” to your album Dope Dogs.
The dogs are just another version of the animal instincts that we humans share. We relate to them in some weird way. We’ll say, “Dog is man’s best friend,” but at the same time, when you want to describe something really fucked up, you say, “Treat him like a dog.” [Laughing] Those kinds of things always intrigue me.

You just acted in Flying Lotus’s movie. What was that like?
I thought I was sick—they got me beat! When we were kids we watched the slime or the alien popping out of the guy’s gut—[Kuso] is that on overload. They did a good job testing your ability to be cool [Laughing].

You’ve been working with Flying Lotus on music too?
Oh yeah, we're working on that now. As a matter of fact I just sent a bunch of stuff to Thundercat yesterday. That's moving right along. We're doing another record with him and probably George Clinton or P-Funk All-Stars. All of this we're working together on, even what I'm putting out as Parliament. They'll be involved in that too.

What do you like about his approach as a producer?
He's been able to incorporate fresh music into hip-hop, samples mostly played by jazz musicians and really out there sounds. He's a good manipulator of frequency. Kendrick Lamar suggested me to him, and he was so right.

George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic play B.B. King Blues Club & Grill (bbkingblues.com). Tue 28 at 8pm. $42.50–$49. Buy tickets.

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